Photo Credit: WikiCommons

Last January, US President Donald Trump stated: “For far too long, nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond.  Those days are over.  Iran has been a leading sponsor of terrorism and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world.  We will never let that happen.”

As the US President recovers from the coronavirus, various media outlets have reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been backing Armenia in its conflict over the Nargano-Karabakh region.  Yet despite this, Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced House Resolution 1165, which is an attempt by a small group of leaders of the Armenian Congressional Caucus to misrepresent what is happening on the ground in order to advance the interests of Tehran.   However, it would be folly for America’s leaders to adopt this resolution, for it would undermine Trump’s struggle against the mullah’s regime and harm a key US ally.

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Many Americans are probably wondering, why would the mullah’s in Iran seek to back Christian Armenia against another Shia Muslim nation?   After all, in far too many media outlets, the Nargano-Karabakh conflict has been betrayed as a Christian struggle against Erdogan’s Turkey, neglecting completely to mention that Azerbaijan is an independent sovereign nation with its own interests that differ from Turkey and that the Azeris are allied both with Israel and the USA.  The Azeris also boast a secular government and a history of religious tolerance.  Meanwhile, Christian Armenia has received the backing of the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic of Iran.   Indeed, the reality is extremely complicated and is not black nor white.  For this reason, there is a huge gap regarding what is happening on the ground in Nargano-Karabakh and how the issue is getting betrayed in the American media.

Ahmet Obali, the founder of Gunaz.tv, an Azeri TV station, proclaimed: “Iran is not just a government.  The Iranian nationalists in general favor Armenia over Azerbaijan for there is a large ethnic group of Azeris in Iran.  Iran considers us to be a danger to their national security if Azerbaijan is stronger.  The Iranian government have traditionally been anti-Azerbaijan over the past 100 years.  We Azeris were the first to revolt against the Supreme Leader.  They suppressed us in 1980 and we have been under heavier repression since then.  Recently, we had a demonstration in solidarity with Azerbaijan.  There were no slogans against the government.  But Iran suppressed them and arrested hundreds.   They tortured many of the Azeri protesters.  In contrast, they do not arrest Armenians protesting for Armenia, but they do not let Azeris protest for Azerbaijan or even mourn deaths in Nargano-Karabakh.”

Aside from that, Obali stressed: “Russian weapons have been shipped to Armenia via Iran.  Iranian TV showed Russian army trucks going from Iran to Armenia.  They never stopped.  Iran keeps helping Armenia as we speak.   In one of the video clips, the Armenians are using Iran’s cement factories projects to fortify their positions.  Iran sends Armenia a lot of equipment, oil, gas, and food.  Iran also gives the Armenians gas for free in the hopes that Armenia will give them electricity.  It is a tool that they use to keep Azerbaijan down.”

Obali emphasized that Armenia has been an ally of Iran for quite some time: “The current chief of staff of President Hassan Rouhani, Dr. Mahmoud Vaezi,, oversaw the negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the 1990’s.  He admitted that Iran used these negotiations to establish good relations with Armenia and to help Armenia take over Shusha, our cultural center.  Later, the Lachin Corridor was taken when Iran was playing the mediator game.  These negotiations were designed to pass on information to the Armenians.  Iran has helped Armenia and has been helping Armenia since 1992.”

Many commentators in the Western world have automatically sided with Armenia for they are Christian while living in denial regarding the support Yereven receives from Tehran.  Yet, apparently, it is not unusual for the Iranian regime to utilize non-Muslim proxies to further their interests.  “I am Shia Muslim,” Obali noted.  “Iran, unlike what they claim, never considers Islam or Muslims their main category for helping.  They are very pragmatic at using Muslims against Muslims, like in Syria.  They support China against the Uighurs.  They supported silently Russia against the Chechens.  This regime always does everything to advance its goals.  They do not consider Sunnis Muslim, but they help Hamas.  Iran has helped Houthis against other Muslims.”

According to Obali, “If you look at the events in the Middle East, every war that there is, Iran is involved one way or another.  Iran is involved not in making peace but making the problem bigger.  One of the tactics that Iran uses is to create crisis or to make the crisis bigger, so Iran will be forgotten.  That is another tactic that they use.”  In this way, Tehran can build up its nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles program, while the international community is distracted by other issues.

Prominent Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar concurred: “Iran occupied a large part of the Azeri land including the historic capital of the Azeris, which is the city of Tabriz.”  As a result, almost 40 percent of the Iranian population is Azeri today.  According to Dr. Kedar, “Iran is constantly afraid that Azerbaijan tries to incite Azeris in Iran to rebel against the Persian rule over them.”  Bartu Ekin, a Avangart Gundem leader and editor for Strateji Kortak, a Turkish publication on international affairs, added: “Azeris are Shia but they are not extreme like Iran.  They are secular.   Furthermore, both Azeris and Turks are a nationalist population.  Azeris and Turks do not care whether one is Shia or Sunni.  If you are Turkish, you are a friend.  For that reason, the Iranians fear Azeris for they care more about the Turkic bond than the Shia bond.”

“This is the background for the fact that when it comes to politics, Iran supports the enemy of Azerbaijan, even though they are Christian, just as they support the Alawites in Syria even though they are not Muslim,” Kedar noted.  “This means Iran acts according to political interests rather than religious considerations.   Amazingly, it calls itself the Islamic Republic, although acting against Muslims hand-in-hand with infidels.   Thus, they support Armenia for they are better for their cause.”

Interestingly, another reason why Iran is opposed to Azerbaijan stems from their strategic partnership with the State of Israel.  “They might be afraid that Azerbaijan cooperates with all kinds of enemies of Iran, like Israel,” he stressed.  “Do not forget that Azerbaijan and Israel got massive cooperation regarding oil, weapons, technology, and the Iranians are suspecting that the Azeris actually enable Israeli intelligence operations being launched against Iran from Azeri soil.   For example, there are rumors that the Iranian nuclear archives, which was smuggled from Iran two years ago, was brought from Iran to Azerbaijan and from there it was taken to Israel.   This is only an example.   I think Azeris are afraid of Iran and for a good reason.   They would do whatever is needed to protect Azerbaijan from the lustful power of the Iranians.”

Considering these facts, it would behoove the United States to refrain from supporting Armenia at this time, for any assistance given to Armenia will do nothing short but strengthen the strategic interests of the mullah’s in Iran.  After all, a strong Azerbaijan who is victorious in the struggle over Nargano-Karabakh could encourage Azeris in Iran to stand up to the regime in Tehran and fight for the secession of their areas from Persian domination.   This will cause the mullah’s government to lose power and influence.  In contrast, a strong Armenia will ensure that the mullahs remain fully in charge of their territory and will be able to crush all Azeri discontent to their rule.  It will also further expand the Iranian axis in the Middle East.  This goes against the strategic interests of the US.  After all, Tehran already has proxies controlling Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and part of the Palestinian Authority.  Do we really want them to strengthen their grasp over Nargano-Karabakh too?  Therefore, any US congressmen and congresswomen who values President Trump’s struggle against Iran should vote against House Resolution 1165.

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Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”